The WAM Factor-Kraken Wide angle conversion lens


It never fails, whenever i slap on a dome port and wide angle lens, all the macro critters come out to play. It took me a long time to figure out that i shouldn’t be looking down for macro subjects when i should be looking up and seeking the sun. From packing for a day trip or preparing for a long haul, the question of wether to shoot wide or macro has always been a challenging one for underwater photographers. Fortunately for SLR shooters that harsh reality of lens choice is beginning to fade. 

The possibility of shooting true 1:1 macro AND wide angle on the same dive is now a reality. The engineers at Kraken have developed a highly functional conversion lens that for me is a game changer. 

 KRL-09S- Conversion lens flipped down | Nikon D850

When you see the mounted conversion lens on the camera above water it appears to be big and heavy. When flipped down the lens extends outwards but the dome portion of the lens itself is actually the size of a small zen port (100mm) and allows for tight working spaces. This particular lens has a buoyancy collar already built into it which makes the setup underwater totally neutral.

The extension also helps with lighting as i can use the barrel of the lens to block some of the light while using inward lighting.

Ive always gravitated to using the Tokina set up (10-17 + Zen port) for this style of shooting but have found that the Toki's fish eye distortion to be a bit annoying. The KRL-09S is rectilinear with zero barrel distortion.

A couple of basic field test’s:

Both of these tests are not scientific by any means but illustrate an example of how the lens works underwater. Both are shot from aprx. the same distance, shutter speeds and aperture.

60mm and 60 with conversion lens

standar and 2:1 magnification

Lionfish and sunball

 To capture strong WAM style images, subject matter is extremely important. I’ve found that mid sized or palm sized subjects give the strongest, front of the frame presence and dimension. Adding some kind of model or reference in the back of the frame add’s perspective, pushing the primary subject forward. Think of the frame in a dimensional manner, including multiple elements will help to ad layers and enhance the image. 

1:1 macro and model

Getting close to the subject is also very important which requires care and patience. Think of the animal first. If possible, I try to position my camera prior to looking through the viewfinder   just to make sure that i don’t hit the subject or stress them too much. Checking your images while shooting or “chimping”should also be done very carefully. Not just because you might kill the frogfish but you also have a chance a scratching your new lens. Look for vertical relief, kelp forests, crinoids, pier or jetty structure and of course if you can include the green or blue water, it will tell the story of where the image was shot.

The depth of field will be much greater due to the nature of the optics so using open ƒ-stops more frequently used for wide angle shooting are okay too which will help balance the available ambient light.

CFWA with a Rhinopias

Lighting and backscatter can also be a bit tricky, particularly in chunky water. Snooting also works although using a beam flash restrictor and/or diffuser give’s the image a more natural feel. Remember ƒ-stop for color in the foreground, ISO and shutter speed to control the light in the background. For strobes, i prefer to keep them at the 10 & 2 but if the composition weighs heavier to one side or the other, i might eliminate or decrease the strobe power on the side that doesn’t need strobe flash. In other words, theres no need to flash empty water, after all it will only create backscatter which equals, more work in post. 

True wide angle @ 20mm'ish

Color is an essential ingredient with any style of UW photography. In-fact thats what makes shooting underwater so special. However that color doesn’t come through in our images without strobe flash. The kaleidoscope of colors that we are able to experience while diving should be included whenever and wherever we can and as much as possible.

RGB+Negative space is a good rule of thumb for color and composition. All three of the primary color channels diminish as you get deeper, loosing the reds first. Shallow water means richer natural light. That being said, this also means you will need to use strong strobe flash to give those colors the vibrance to come through. Its counterintuitive thinking when shooting in shallow sunny environments as were are now competing with the sun. Bright colors will be pushed to the front and dull colors will be pulled to the back in any image. 

Valley of the crinoids

KWACL flip down lens-valley of crinoids exists in the deeper portion of our house reef. The colorful feather stars cover every centimeter of sand for as far as you can see underwater. The white tube anemone stood out like a beacon amidst the encroaching crinoids.

The Kraken conversion lens is proving to be valuable in many different scenarios including blackwater photography and video. The thread like streamers or the Pompano are what makes these subjects so beautiful and difficult to shoot with a standard 60mm. Flipping down the KWACL and capturing the subject in all of its glory was a breeze.

Pompano | Blackwater dive| Slow shutter and pan

This also translates well to video capture on blackwater diving (Please click on the link) Video Capture. Normally my go to lens is the 60mm for such dives however with the flip down option, i can use either angle of view. The wider angle makes framing a moving subject in open water incrementally easier than with the 60mm. 


Edgar and Jellyfish

  Overall, a conversion lens means more creative options underwater and less opportunities missed. As a diver with a camera, having options underwater are always a luxury and with the new Kraken Conversion lens  opportunities abound.  

Lens Link:

Conversion lens link

Recommended flip adapter:

Until then, stay optimistic and stay healthy!

Mike Bartick